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Smart Phones, Social Media and Local Search Create Marketing Mojo in the Travel Industry, New Report Says

Steve Birket of Birket Engineering uses his mobile phone
CHICAGO, USA /PRNewswire/ — A flood of innovation involving smart phones, social media and local search will soon have a massive impact on what travelers do and how they spend their money while on vacation, according to a new study from a leading travel market research firm.

The report found that U.S. travelers last year spent a total of $26.8 billion on tours, skiing, sports events, amusement parks, spas, museums, zoos, concerts and other cultural and recreational activities.  That’s more than twice the amount spent on cruises and package tours, and nearly twice the amount spent on car rentals.

The study, entitled “When They Get There, and Why They Go,” is soon to be released by PhoCusWright Inc. The firm surveyed 1,283 consumers, 340 suppliers of events and activities and 45 industry executives about the U.S. travel activities marketplace.

“Mobile technologies, social networks and location-based search are already having a huge effect on consumers’ trip planning.  But the impact is going to be even more profound going forward as we reach a tipping point in the adoption of smart phones and tablet PCs,” said Jon Schepke, President of SIM Partners.  SIM Partners, a Chicago-based interactive marketing agency, is a sponsor of the PhoCusWright study.

In 2012, shipments of smart phones are expected to exceed PC shipments for the first time.  Additionally, iSuppli forecasts iPad sales at 43.7 million units in 2011 and 63.3 million in 2012, reinforcing the importance of being focused on mobile computing and application development (iPhone/iPad, Android etc.).

“These trends offer travel marketers new and cost-efficient ways of connecting with consumers before, during and after their trips,” Schepke said.  “Consumers will be able to access targeted information, promotions and offers when they need them most and are making decisions, so they are more likely to buy.”

He cautioned that destinations, hotels and travel attractions should have a mobile marketing strategy in place now to adapt to the fast-changing digital landscape and ensure that they are well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.  “Those who move quickly to develop engaging and consumer-friendly mobile applications will gain a significant advantage in a very competitive marketplace,” Schepke said.

The report cited mobile convergence – the explosion of GPS-empowered applications, mapping, search, digital camera, MP3 player and other capabilities available on smart phones — as a key trend that will significantly influence consumers’ future choices of activities in their travel destinations.  Social media will continue to expand in importance as travelers increasingly depend on reviews, videos and personal recommendations from friends in making vacation plans and selecting activities.
Among the other findings in the report:
  • Three in four active travelers use a mobile device while traveling.  Two-thirds say they are likely to research, shop and book travel activities via their mobile devices.
  • More than three in four active travelers cite traveler reviews and photos as very or moderately influential in choosing what to do.  Nearly six in 10 cite user-generated video as influential and more than one in three cite content and promotions from companies.
  • Consumers who spend the most on travel activities are the most influenced by web content such as interactive maps, blogs and social networks.
  • One in two active travelers say they are likely to post comments to their social network.  Four in 10 say they are likely to solicit advice from their social network.

“This study reveals that consumers are ready to embrace the mobile-social-local digital revolution,” Schepke said.  “The travel industry has just scratched the surface of the powerful marketing mojo being created by itinerary tools, location-based networking, interactive mapping and other technologies.  The potential is massive for reaching the right travelers with personalized offers and incentives at just the right time and place.”

About SIM Partners
SIM Partners, based in Chicago, IL, is a full service, interactive marketing agency specializing in innovative, ROI-driven solutions that help Fortune 1000 companies cost-efficiently acquire customers through the use of mobile marketing, search engine marketing and social media strategies.

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Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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